Gynocentrism and female narcissism

The following articles explore the role of narcissism in the context of gynocentric culture & behaviour. This emphasis is not aimed to reduce narcissism to an all-female pathology, but to demonstrate the ways in which female narcissism may lean toward gynocentric modes of expression, much as males demonstrate narcissism in typically gendered ways.

Articles on gynocentrism & narcissism by Peter Wright:

Formal studies in female narcissism by Ava Green:

Research on interrelationship of narcissism and feminism:


Informal Articles

Narcissism Exaggerates Baseline Hypergamy

Many in the men’s issues community have observed pronounced hypergamous behaviors among women.  While some commenters pose reasonable evolutionary hypotheses for the behavior, there may be another cause at work – narcissism.

Society’s encouragement of the sexes into quasi social classes, with men as chivalric class and women as quasi-aristocratic class, has generated a degree of narcissism among women in recent times. Acquired Situational Narcissism is a psychological state arising with acquired status, as in the examples of academic experts, politicians, pop singers, actors – and in this case women who, in modern society, are taught that they possess high worth, dignity, value, purity, status, esteem and reputation simply for being women. This psychological disposition tends to exaggerate self-enhancement behaviours beyond what evolutionary models of hypergamy would require.

Among high narcissistic individuals, studies have found higher incidence of hypergamous behavior, indicating that hypergamy is not unleashed by a culture of sexual liberation alone; it may also be the result of an acquired social class narcissism that says “I deserve.”

Excerpts from narcissism studies:

A third strand of evidence concerns narcissists’ relationship choices. Because humans are a social species, relationship choices are an important feature of situation selection. Narcissists are more likely to choose relationships that elevate their status over relationships that cultivate affiliation. For example, narcissists are keener on gaining new partners than on establishing close relationships with existing ones (Wurst et al., 2017). They often demonstrate an increased preference for high-status friends (Jonason & Schmitt, 2012) and trophy partners (Campbell, 1999), perhaps because they can bask in the reflected glory of these people. In sum, narcissists are more likely to select social environments that allow them to display their performances publicly, ideally in competition with others. These settings are potentially more accepting and reinforcing of narcissistic status strivings.

Source: The “Why” and “How” of Narcissism: A Process Model of Narcissistic Status Pursuit1

Consistent with the self-orientation model, Study 5 provided an empirical demonstration of the mediational role of self enhancement in narcissists’ preference for perfect rather than caring romantic partners. Furthermore, these potential romantic partners were more likely to be seen as a source of self-esteem to the extent that they provided the narcissist with a sense of popularity and importance (i.e., social status). Narcissists’ preference for romantic partners reflects a strategy for interpersonal self-esteem regulation. Narcissists also were attracted to self-oriented romantic partners to the extent that these others were viewed as similar. The mediational roles of self-enhancement and similarity were independent. That is, narcissists’ romantic preferences were driven both by a desire to gain self-esteem and a desire to associate with similar others.

Source: Narcissism and romantic attraction2

Narcissism has been linked with the materialistic pursuit of wealth and symbols that convey high status (Kasser, 2002; Rose, 2007). This quest for status extends to relationship partners. Narcissists seek romantic partners who offer self- enhancement value either as sources of fawning admiration, or as human trophies (e.g., by possessing impressive wealth or exceptional physical beauty) (Campbell, 1999; Tanchotsrinon, Maneesri, & Campbell, 2007)

Source: The Handbook of Narcissism And Narcissistic Personality Disorders3

Dozens more quotations could be added, however the point is obvious: self-enhancement strategies of both narcissism and hypergamy share overlapping features.

The rise of narcissistic behavior in women is receiving increased attention from academia in recent years, particularly with the addition of new variants to the lexicon such as communal narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism, which are considered female dominated modes of expressing narcissism. A more in-depth survey of narcissism variants among women, and their implications can be read here.

Hypergamy as an innate motivation doesn’t require a woman to overestimate her own attractiveness and desirability as she seeks to secure high resource/status males. Narcissism, on the contrary, does entail an overestimation by women of their own attractiveness & desirability as they seek to secure high resource/status males. To discover which of hypergamy/narcissism is at play, simply ask a woman to rate her own attractiveness. If she strongly overrates herself, then her mating-up is likely driven by narcissism and is maladaptive. If she rates herself honestly, then her desire to mate up is likely more driven by an adaptive hypergamy. Mating-up today appears largely driven by maladaptive narcissism; and excusing it as natural & adaptive serves to compound and increase that same culturally-driven narcissism.

A note on terminology:

Sigmund Freud introduced narcissism as a developmental trait that ranged from healthy to unhealthy,4,5 and some evolutionary psychologists posit that a degree of narcissism might be adaptive in the wider evolutionary sense, though this hypothesis (which has no genetic evidence to confirm it) can only be applied to a limited subset of behaviours before tipping into maladaptive manifestations of narcissism as measured by the usual psychometric instruments.6,7,8 Moreover, no one has satisfactorily demonstrated that adaptive self-enhancement (i.e. a proposed non-pathological narcissism) belongs to a construct continuum with pathological narcissism.

With these points in mind it’s necessary to differentiate between female self-enhancement as an evolutionary survival strategy, versus female self-enhancement as a maladaptive, narcissistic pathology. The narcissistic self-enhancement we see increasingly demonstrated among women today is not a contributor to evolutionary success; on the contrary it works to undermine family ties, intimate relationships and is also associated with lowering the birth rate – the exact opposite of conditions required for evolutionary success. Lastly, by differentiating hypergamous self-enhancement from narcissism we avoid the error of encouraging or excusing narcissism under the banner of it being “natural.”

Maladaptive vs. adaptive versions of self-enhancement



[1] Grapsas, S., Brummelman, E., Back, M. D., & Denissen, J. J. (2020). The “why” and “how” of narcissism: A process model of narcissistic status pursuit. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15(1), 150-172.
[2] Campbell, W. K. (1999). Narcissism and romantic attraction. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 77(6), 1254.
[3] Wallace, H. M. (2011). Narcissistic self-enhancement. The handbook of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder: Theoretical approaches, empirical findings, and treatments, 309-318.
[4] Freud, S. (2014). On narcissism: An introduction. Read Books Ltd.
[5] Segal, H., & Bell, D. (2018). The theory of narcissism in the work of Freud and Klein. In Freud’s On Narcissism (pp. 149-174). Routledge.
[6] Holtzman, N. S., & Donnellan, M. B. (2015). The roots of Narcissus: Old and new models of the evolution of narcissism. Evolutionary perspectives on social psychology, 479-489.
[7] Holtzman, N. S. (2018). Did narcissism evolve?. Handbook of Trait Narcissism: Key Advances, Research Methods, and Controversies, 173-181.
[8] Czarna, AZ, Wróbel, M., Folger, LF, Holtzman, NS, Raley, JR, & Foster, JD (2022). Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Evolutionary roots and emotional profiles. In TK Shackelford & L. Al-Shawaf (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolution and the Emotions. Oxford University Press.

Gynocentrism in China – by Ping Zhu

The following excerpt is from Ping Zhu’s book Gender and Subjectivities in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Literature and Culture (p.39-41). Zhu’s exploration indicates that Chinese gynocentrism cannot be reduced to a universal, spontaneous reflex of biology but was instead crafted, ideologically speaking, with the help of cherry-picked details from occidental gynocentrism which were subsequently adapted by Chinese writers. It should be noted that any Chinese expression of cultural gynocentrism, arising from these mostly literary efforts, is miniscule in comparison to the exaggerated gynocentric traditions that have characterized parts of the Occident and especially America over the last two centuries.

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Gynocentrism in China

By Ping Zhu

The early versions of gynocentrism contain some prototypes of gender consciousness within the framework of Chinese tradition. Although these indigenous cultural imaginations of gynocentrism in classical Chinese literature crystallized Chinese literati’s early “feminist” thoughts, they were spontaneous and did little to alter the fundamentals underlying the gender hierarchy. From the late nineteenth century, new forms of gynocentrism started to blossom in response to Western imperialism. Kang Youwei (1858–1927) was one of the earliest Chinese intellectuals who tried to challenge the presumption of Western gender and racial theories so as ultimately to change the inferior positioning of Chinese culture. In The Book of Great Harmony (Datong shu), completed during Kang’s exile in India after the failure of the 1898 Reform, he ascribed the progress of civilization to feminine endeavor:

Therefore men who seek food by hunting the animals are like the
nomadic and free Mongolians and Huns, who were indeed strong.
Women who stay at home and monitor the ancestral sacrifice are like
the Six Dynasties and the Southern Song dynasty, which were content
to retain sovereignty over a part of the state and finally were occupied by and subject to others; they were indeed weak; yet civilizations spring
from the weak nations and not the strong states. (175)

Kang regarded civilization as mainly a domestic, and thus feminine, matter. Because women’s sphere was traditionally domestic, “it is certain that all crafts and tools are invented by women” (175). For Kang Youwei, conquering by power, a masculine impulse, was an aberration of the axiom: “The violation of the weak by the strong force is a barbaric act, and is prohibited by the universal principle!” (172). Kang’s unprecedented exaltation of the female gender manifests his anxiety to reverse the unfavorable position of Chinese culture in the predominant Western racial theory. Kang’s unfaltering confidence in Chinese culture made him draw the conclusion that the weaker and feminine nations were actually superior in terms of civilization. His theory can be regarded as the earliest version of modern gynocentrism that resulted from China’s encounter with the West. Although the confidence in Chinese culture was greatly undermined, if not completely lost, during the New Culture Movement, a significant number of Chinese intellectuals still used Kang’s approach to challenge the gender premise in the racial theory to seek national empowerment.

Later Chinese intellectuals creatively cherry-picked the useful elements in Western gender and racial theories to form their own propositions of gynocentrism. Modern Chinese sexologist Xian’s (no known dates) “Sexual Selection” (Xingze) is the first full-length essay to advocate gynocentrism in modern China.9 ’s essay originally appeared in the fifth issue of Learning (Xueyi) magazine in 1921; it was later reprinted in Mei Sheng’s Collected Discussions of the Chinese Women Question (Zhongguo fun ü wenti taolunji) as the opening essay of the section “Question of the two sexes” (Liangxing wenti). “Sexual Selection” was divided into six parts: (1) female selection; (2) male selection; (3) the fall of women; (4) women’s liberation; (5) the personalities of men and women; and (6) the significance of liberation. The concept of “sexual selection” originally appeared in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859).10 Following Darwin, Xian argued that sexual selection, as a form of “struggle for existence,” was the main reason for evolution. Sexual selection motivated competition among males, the result of which was that the strongest men could produce more offspring, thus improving the species. Evoking American botanist and sociologist Lester F. Ward’s (1841–1913) “Theory of Gynocentrism,” proposed: “The origin of life is female, the continuation of life is female, the primary biological body is female” (6).11 For , men participated in sexual selection only as subordinate agents: “In order to have the participation of a heterogeneous element to mutate, the female separated a part of herself, hence there is the derivative, dependent male” (6). Males, according to , only provided the materials for the evolution of the species; it was the females who controlled the process and selected the materials.

Xian believed that gynocentrism was key to the evolution of the species and the mandate of female selection was inscribed in the instinctual nature of heterosexual love. Since males’ sexual desires were stronger than their survival desires, they had to faithfully fulfill the mandate of nature to court females despite all the pains and risks (10). This gave females the right of selection in the matter of sexual love. In the world of biology, female selection was “a supreme right” and their will should be “absolutely free” (12). Xian asserted that as compared to fickle males, females were more stable, so female selection helped to steer the evolutionary trajectory of a species while steadily improving it. “Female selection helps to develop males, whereas male selection will lead only to the downfall of females” (16). It follows that men would evolve only when they were under female control. repudiated the practice of male-centrism as an aberration in the process of evolution due to men’s selfishness.

Using China as an example, showed the dismal consequences of thwarting the natural right of female selection by allowing aberrant male selection to take over: the production of weaker offspring (18). accused the patriarchal society of smothering the potential of women. In the era of male selection, the arbitrary criteria imposed on women by men led to the downfall of the former, as the physical and psychical ability of women kept dwindling. refuted the popular masculinist viewpoint that reduced females to children or not-yet-evolved males. He argued that the wider pelvis of female was not a sign of regression, but a sign of evolution, since the wider pelvis could only be found in higher species. believed that if women were liberated, that is, if women were given total freedom to carry out sexual selection and realize their moral potential and independence, it would greatly benefit the species. At the end of the essay, beseeched men to be less selfish and women to realize they were also human beings, so that under the mutual goal of species’ evolution, male and female sexual selections could be harmonized.

Xian’s theory of gynocentrism was not only a subversion of the patrilineal system, but also departed from the prevalent view of sex equality during Republican China. Women were endowed with powerful agency, permitting them to select men and dominate the evolutionary course of the species. Xian was certainly not the first to apply the theory of sexual selection to empower women during the debate over Chinese woman question. For example, Luo Jialun’s (1897–1969) well-known editorial “Women’s Liberation” (Fun ü jiefang) was published two years earlier, in October 1919, in New Tide (Xinchao), a leading journal for the New Culture advocates. Luo’s essay promoted sexual equality but it also contained arguments reminiscent of Xian’s gynocentrism: “In the era of sexual selection, men were always dominated by women! The female constitution is actually stronger than that of the male” (4). Through the appropriation of Darwin’s scientific theory, women were invested with a sublime power in sexual relationships.

Another avid advocate of “gynocentrism” during the Republican Era was Zhang Jingsheng (1888–1970), who was an active participant in the debate on new sexual morality during the 1920s. Zhang put forward his “New Gynocentrism” (Xin nüxing zhongxin lun) in his 1925 book The Beautiful View of Life (Mei de rensheng guan). Zhang
believed that there were distinct masculine traits and feminine traits in both males and females. The masculine traits represented the inferior national character, while the feminine traits represented the superior national character. Because the feminine traits were superior, Zhang predicted that women would possess mighty power in the future. Zhang Jingsheng’s rationale of new gynocentrism was not limited to the feminine power in sexual relationships, but in all aspects of social affairs: “In the future, women’s influence will exist in universal love, genuine beauty, and the spirit of sacrifice in a general sense” (162). According to Zhang, this new gynocentrism was the remedy to the problems of a male-centric society, in which “emotion was replaced by reason, beauty was replaced by pragmatism, and the spirit of sacrifice was replaced by selfish narcissism” (162). Zhang encouraged the new women to become “lovers, beauties, and heroines” (166), the three roles that women inherently performed well from his point of view; only then would men, and the whole society, understand love, beauty, and the spirit of sacrifice.

Compared with Xian’s gynocentrism, Zhang Jingsheng’s championing of the feminine power was more grounded in a romanticized and hybrid model of heterosexualism, one that was different from the Enlightenment model of heterosexualism due to its emphasis on “aesthetic response” and “emotion” (Leary 79). By upholding essentialized feminine qualities, Zhang had “made beautification into an ethical obligation” (Leary 81). Zhang Jingsheng’s ideal “new woman” was one that combined the stereotypes of white bourgeois women and Confucian women. The new woman, according to Zhang, should both know how to use sexual favor to manipulate men (162), and be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of love (165). From a progressive feminist point of view, it is hard to say whether Zhang’s new woman was empowered or disempowered in this paradoxical constitution. But it illustrates that the discourse on the new woman in modern China should not be viewed simply as result of a colonial encounter, but also as a reinvention of tradition which bears “China’s own distinct history” (Judge 2008, 7). In contrast, Xian’s gynocentrism was mainly based on the model of Western bourgeois women, who putatively participated in sexual relationships from an equal or more superior standing.

[11] . Japanese translators Sakai Tosihiko and Yamakawa Kikui translated parts of Lester Ward’s Pure Sociology and renamed it to “Gynecocentrism” in 1916. This book had immediately caught the attention of Chinese intellectuals. Li Da’s (1890–1966) translation of Gynecocentrism (nüxing zhongxin shuo) was published by Shangwu Yinshuguan in 1922; and Xia Mianzun’s (1886–1946) translation was published by Shanghai Minzhi Shuju in 1924 and reprinted in 1925.



Socialism And Feminism – by Correa Moylan Walsh (1917)

The following volume is from Correa Moylan Walsh’s 3-volume set on the topic of socialism and feminism. In it he delves deeply into the rise of feminism, and its cross-fertilization with socialist ideas, which provide a useful snapshot of gender politics at the time of his writing (1917). – PW

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Socialism and feminism – by Correa Moylan Walsh